When a friend asked Shawn Schatteman how to make pizza dough, the Hawthorn Woods dad was happy to share. It didn't matter that it was a Saturday afternoon and Shawn was walking through the Target parking lot giving instructions over his cellphone.
"There really is not a recipe for this," Shawn said. "I told him 'this is what you need to do ...'"
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Shawn seems to have patterned his cooking style after his grandmother's.
"Back then, she did not use measuring cups. It would be a little bit of this and a little bit of that and make it up as you go," he said.
While Shawn encourages his friends to experiment in the kitchen, he often finds his own inspiration at the grocery store. He said he walks by the produce, meat counter and fresh spices at the store to discover new ingredients to use. And if he's not familiar with the ingredient, he's not shy to ask.
"I'm not a professionally trained chef so I'll ask how would you use this in a dish," he said. "I've found out how to incorporate tarragon into a chicken dish. My wife eats a lot of fish, so I learned how to make sauces using dill to compliment the fish."
While he may be adventurous in the kitchen, Shawn said the dishes often stay simple.
"It has to be something that is pretty easy to pull together," he said. "I have to be able to get everything together in one shop. If I can't find what I want, I'm not going to go someplace else to find it. I will just change what I'm making."
One of the family's go-to meals and a hit with 8-year-old Blake is dad's homemade pizza.
"It's a chance to let him make his own, and if he has friends over, they can each make their own and put whatever ingredients they want on the pizza," he said. "It's an opportunity to get him engaged and let him learn how to cook."
Blake may prefer sauce and cheese and wife, Nicole, sticks with pesto and vegetables, but Shawn's topping takes him back to childhood. He said he does not use chunks of sausage but instead creates a finer grind of sausage like he ate growing up in East Moline.
"It's a way to stay connected to the type of sausage pizza that I grew up on because you can't find it anywhere around here," he said.
When Shawn cooks he often relies on his favorite year-round cooking tool: his gas grill.
"I grill year round. I'm the nut job out in January wearing a parka and standing next to the grill," he said. "For me, I like the ease of cleanup. You don't have to do much."
Shawn grills a variety of meats such as smoked pork shoulder and smoked ribs, but he also likes to prepare lighter fare including corn in the husk, asparagus and fish.
"One of the best things we do is we go fishing on Lake Michigan and catch a couple of nice salmon. We fillet them and put them skin side down on the grill. It's fantastic with a little butter," he said.
Besides making simple family meals, Shawn has been known to pull out all the stops on the weekends to feed friends or his son's hockey team.
"The menu is always changing around here, but we like to think that no one goes away hungry and no one has a bad time," he said.
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